Why do I Like Abandoned Places?

abandonedplaces

via – Quora.

How would you answer the question, for yourself or for others? It’s not so easy to pinpoint why I like abandoned places. I think this is the best I have done at trying to come up with a concrete answer that makes sense and isn’t too much on the flowery side.

Something between proving we have a history, the endurance of what we have created and the mystery and sadness of what has been left behind.

(Reposted from the screen capture because sometimes software mangles image files).

The Labyrinth of Ordinary Humans

Found a nice quote on another lost urbex site. The direct link is hijacked by the Webring code. I found the site thanks to the Wayback Machine.

“It’s not about busting into businesses and bragging about trespassing. It’s about living a time that is rapidly disappearing, sinking under a new city. The undoctored past is a rare thing to have the privilege to experience, especially because this is not the past of kings or generals or millionaire mansions. This is the past of sewer and drain workers,  factory workers, builders, tunnelers – ordinary people who built the labyrinthine hive of humans, that maze of rooms and halls above ground and under that we know as – a city.”

– Jacques

urbanwanderers
Source: Exploring The Twin Cities’ Underground

A Bedtime Story for Young Urban Explorers

lonelyskyscraper

Source for image: Jenny Lewis

When I was a kid I had a picture book called `The Lonely Skyscraper`. It was a haunting and beautiful story of a skyscraper who felt empty in the city, because nobody truly lived inside him. Sure, he was full of bustle and noise during the day, but at night he was left dark and alone, but for a few security guards patrolling his floors.
So he uprooted himself and ran away to the countryside, where gradually animals came to live in him, with dormice and birds making nests of his paper supplies, bears hibernating in his basements, and deer grazing the grass that shot up through his forecourt. With so much life inside him, he finally knew peace and happiness.

Source: The Prada store that got left behind | Michael John Grist

Haunted House Scenarios in Games

People think of haunted houses because they want to think every abandoned house is haunted. But, really, I think the real danger of an abandoned house is the actual house itself. Has anyone ever thought to make a game where the house is falling apart and you are exploring in the wreckage? With the addition of possibly meeting other people (living, not ghosts) who would not be happy to see you. Then, lets not for get the animals: insects, rodents and birds in particular.

Or is it just easier to be afraid of something fictional, like a haunted house?

Having written all that… I’d love to play something like Ravenloft if I could play without needing a group of others and all that extra set up (dice, character sheets, kit, etc).  Best of all would be seeing the map, with the layout of the house and then exploring to see each room in all the architectural details. You can skip the ghosts and monsters for me. I’d just like to see the house, even a fictional house.

Source: Haunted Half-Dozen: Six Unforgettable Haunted House Scenarios for Tabletop RPGs – Geekcentricity

Urban Exploration: Don’t Hurt the Spiders!

don't hurt the spidersIf you explore empty, forgotten and abandoned places you will be among spiders and other creatures. Just accept it as a fact. I do not understand spider hatred. What has any little spider ever done to you? People see a photo of a few spiders and start talking (ranting) about demolishing the building, setting it on fire, etc. Are they crazy?!

I like spiders. They eat other insects and in general they prefer to avoid larger animals (like people). Yes, there are some dangerous spiders. Not many here in Ontario. I have seen a black widow spider. I watched it for awhile and did not try to pick it up, set it on fire, stomp on it or in any other way bother it.

Take only photos and leave only footprints. Leave the spiders alone, don’t take their lives. Spiders and their web do add greatness to photographs when the light is right.

The Silence of Abandonments

urban exploration quote

Urban exploration for me is as much about the abandonments as it is about the inner exploration. The silence of the abandonments gives me time to reflect; urban exploration often becomes a meditative state. Seeing the decay of the past allows me to reflect on the possibilities of the future – Chris Luckhardt

Ghost Signs

6958196_f260Before billboards advertising (names of businesses most often rather than ads as we think of them now) was painted on the sides of buildings.

Now those old ads are ghost signs, faded, weathered and forgotten. But, if you watch for them, you will still find a ghost sign in a town or city near you.

Ghost Signs are Not Signs of Ghosts

6959073_f520 6959077_f520 6959079_f520

Ghost signs are old painted advertising on the side of buildings. Usually weathered and aged, they can be almost unreadable. Some of them may be covered over with multiple painted ads and other new ads like billboards. Others disappear and are forgotten when new buildings are constructed and overlap the space.

Ghost signs are special because they are vintage advertising. Usually the original business, service or product are long gone out of business, moved or have become absorbed into bigger corporations. I like ghost signs. They’re a bit of nostalgia, like having a surprise visit from a time machine.

I’ve heard ghost signs called wall dogs, street type and brick ads too.

The photograph with this post is one of my own. I took it this past weekend during a drive around Ontario, in the area of Niagara Falls. Ghost signs aren’t so hard to find if you keep an eye open while driving through a small town, or just about any size of settlement/ community. I seem to find them easier in small towns. Maybe because there is less construction, less chance the old buildings will be knocked down for the sake of progress.

Ghost signs are a bit of our history, faded but still around. But sign painting is fading away as a profession. Modern signs are created with different materials and posted on billboards.

Resources for Ghost Sign Explorers

Ruins Meets Modern

My favorite style of design is when the very old meets the new. It’s like the industrial lofts in Downtown LA that still maintain some of the classical building elements.

Organica Arquitectura in Lisbon took a ruined stone house in Portugal and integrated a brand new modern house. The combination of the old and new couldn’t be more perfect.

I feel that it’s important to maintain older beautiful structures and restore them when possible. It maintains the history and gives a new building so much personality. This is my idea of perfect design.

via Ruins Meets Modern «.

Repurposing Abandoned Buildings

Old warehouses, churches, factories and other large buildings have been repurposed as new apartments for years. This isn’t something new. But, as we seem to be getting more abandoned industrial buildings and structures, we need better, practical ideas to keep reusing these old places in new ways.

Sustainable buildings and adaptive reuse is the key to repurposing abandoned buildings.

So far the best use I have seen for a repurposed abandoned building was making it a home for birds. This sounds like just any abandoned building as animals and plants do make their way inside and hanging around outside naturally, without any help. But, in the case of the building being repurposed they had taken the trouble of making it a place for native species of birds to be a breeding colony. Then people collect the feathers, down and guano for fertilizer.

Lately, I read a post by Cory Doctorow about an artist colony being created in Detroit where the homes are very derelict and very cheap to pick up from the bank. The artists have begun living off the grid in these old buildings, written off by everyone else. This is such a great way to give new life to the old places.

I started looking into other ways and means of reusing abandoned places. I found industrial water towers which had been repurposed as new homes. I read about an abandoned hospital being turned into a new theatre. A good idea for taking advantage of all that space and likely available parking too. I found old airplanes, boats and big ships turned into homes. I also like the idea of abandoned buildings being turned into libraries and other places which the whole city or town can use.

Artists are turning abandoned structures into modern art. Nice but not so practical as they will eventually need to be kept up or repurposed again. Also, most of them will still be empty and still attract local wildlife which may not be welcome in urban areas.

Turning Abandoned Buildings into Homes for the Homeless is Not so Easy

The idea of taking abandoned buildings in the city and reusing them for the homeless is not new. People think it’s a great solution to using an abandoned place. However, it isn’t so practical or easily done.

One problem is the ‘not in my backyard’ phenomenon. Not everyone is eager for a gathering of homeless people to be brought into their area of the city or town. An abandoned building will attract rodents, birds and other wildlife and, of course, weeds. It may also be a danger as it begins weathering and falling apart. But, that could still seem preferable to bringing in people who could be unpredictable, needy and desperate.

Another problem is funding for this kind of project. The building needs to be renovated and brought up to modern building codes for the plumbing and electrical wiring. These are not light expenses, especially when you factor in the labour to get all of this done.

Where does the money come from for something like this? Even if the city/ government takes on the project the money comes from the local area through taxes.

One other thing, the building owner may not want to sell or give up control of the land the building is on. Just because a building is vacant and empty does not mean no one owns that building. As long as the owner is paying the taxes they own that place. Never assume no one owns a building just because it’s empty, falling apart and abandoned.

A real estate investor and land developer could hold onto a property for many years before doing anything with it. They may need to pay insurance on a ruined building but that could be less hassle and expense than turning it into a usable space and dealing with laws, taxes, more insurance and tenants too.

Something else which comes into the mix of problems is historical preservation. In order to renovate a building which has been given historical significance you need to stick to specific guidelines and use real historical materials and parts while adhering to modern construction and building codes. This is not so easily done, as I know from personal experience (my brother buys, fixes and rents/ sells old, sometimes derelict, homes).

Links to Repurposing Ideas and Thoughts